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Wants More Holiday Decorations

As the holiday season approaches, our town should be preparing for the holidays. Driving down Main Street sure does not look like our town is preparing for the Holidays. If you consider placing garlands and white lights around light posts as decoration for the holiday, I guess you have not lived in Port Washington long. Think back to the years when we had Seasons Greetings and Merry Christmas lighted decorations going across Main Street and the Blvd. That was holiday decoration. What happened to them? I realize this is a yearly discussion brought up but it seems to get worse as the years go on. How about we make this town look more festive for the holiday season and bring joy to all who share these holidays.

Happy Holidays!

Save the Baker House!

I've never read anything that made more sense than Mark McCloskey's letter (Nov. 15 issue). In the last 10 or so years, lower Main Street has undergone a serious facelift. All of the quaintness of the antique shops, restaurants and the Landmark on Main Street has made this part of town a real treat to those of us who live here as well as visitors. The Baker House is an historical landmark that only adds to the charm. Why would anyone want to knock it down for a few parking spaces? Mr. McCloskey's suggestions are solid and should be taken seriously, especially if they save taxpayer dollars and conserve an historical landmark. According to his letter, it would cost less to keep the Baker House, renovate it for library use and have several additional parking spaces as well.

Since this major library renovation/ expansion affects all of the residents in Port Washington, why not take a citizen's poll? Perhaps the Library Newsletter would be a good place to ask the people of Port Washington, all at once, what they think is the best solution...especially since the bottom line is that it's our tax dollars being spent and a part of our town history possibly being destroyed.

Uncle George Sez:

I see by their news releases, public announcements and advertising that all the hospitals in this area are making claims as to their success rate in various treatments.

Hospital No. 1 claims it treats more left-handed people successfully than any other hospital.

Hospital No. 2 claims it is the only hospital facing east.

Hospital No. 3 claims it has the most comfortable beds.

Hospital No. 4 claims Friday is our lucky day.

Hospital No. 5 claims the best looking doctors and nurses.

Hospital No. 6 offers a T-shirt "I survived."

Hospital No. 7 says "Start your child right. We have delivered more geniuses than any other hospital."

Hospital No. 8 claims it has no connections with Knowles Mortuary.

Strangely, not a single hospital claims or mentions fees.

Supports ALR on Lower Main

I am writing this letter in support of the proposed senior housing residence on lower Main Street in Port Washington.

Over the past several months, I have attended several meetings as well as the public hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals at Town Hall in August. I think it is important for our town to closely monitor the proposed development on this site. However, reading the editorials and hearing the opposition's comments at the Zoning Board of Appeals Hearing raised significant issues in my mind relative to our own social responsibility to provide housing for our elderly as well as the character of the residents of this town reflected in their tendency to make misrepresentations and incorrectly characterize this residence in order to sway public opinion about the project - and, in the end, I'm not quite sure what everyone is so afraid about.

On Sept. 25, the newly formed Committee on Overdevelopment wrote a letter to the editorial section of the paper. Its first point states that the building is nearly twice the length of the Landmark on Main Street. The Landmark is 200 feet long by 200 feet wide, 40,000 square feet per floor. It is five floors, which makes the total building area approximately 200,000 square feet. The proposed senior housing residence is approximately 270 feet long and 54,000 square feet in total; the current frontage of the existing buildings is 250 square feet.

As we have seen from the proposed design of the seniors housing residence, unlike the Landmark building, the facade is articulated in a way that makes the building appear to be four separate buildings. I think making the comparison between the Landmark and the proposed senior housing residence tends to exaggerate the size of the proposed building and does not differentiate the architecture between the buildings.

Another statement made by the Committee on Overdevelopment is that the developer needs significant multiple variances and special considerations to build the building as planned. My understanding is that the building only needs a parking variance to allow parking spaces consistent with other assisted living developments that have been developed on Long Island. Of course, it does need a special use approval and a conditional use approval. However, the special use approval is only required because our dated zoning does not define housing types like assisted living which are in great demand. The conditional use to park in a residential district, while it might sound onerous, is not such a big stretch from what is being done on the site right now. Currently, Walter Walters and the new towing company park in excess of 25 cars on the area that is proposed to be open green space. Other tenants on the site currently park in the remaining portions of the residential district. The developer has made numerous proposals to screen with landscaping the rear of the property so as to prevent the adjacent residents from being affected by the parking.

Another statement made by the Committee for Overdevelopment states that the development violates the recommendation of the Town of North Hempstead Master Plan. I have read the master plan and I can't find where this proposal contradicts the master plan. In fact, the master plan calls for supporting housing alternatives for seniors which the proposal is providing.

The letter goes on to state that the proposed scope of the site and the project is potentially hazardous due to large traffic congestion. It was clearly stated at the hearing that the existing users have similar traffic patterns as the proposed assisted living residence and the potential for retail development that could be developed as of right could have as much as five times as much traffic. There is a traffic problem on lower Main Street, but it is not the obligation of this developer to fix the existing problem and wouldn't we be better off in the end getting a use other than retail or office on the site which will minimize the potential for increased traffic for the foreseeable future.

In addition to the misrepresentations in numerous letters to the editor I have read, the flyers have played an important part in the opposition's erroneous propaganda program. One flyer stated that the curbside building will almost be the length of a football field and is twice the length of the Landmark building." Another flyer states that "they will serve 600 meals daily." That would mean that each of their residents would have to eat six meals per day. These misrepresentations, as well as others on the flyers, are clearly an attempt to misguide the public to raise the level of opposition. Does that reflect well on our town?

All of us are concerned about development in our neighborhood. The fact is that this proposal provides an amenity to both the seniors and those of us who have relatives who need this type of care but don't want to move out of their community or we want them to move closer to us. The developer is replacing a gas station, a tow truck company, a marine supply store and insurance office and chronically vacant retail space, along with some small residential apartments. These apartments are eyesores and should be demolished. The developer has proposed a beautiful building that is reminiscent of the buildings that once existed on Main Street. I am only one person in this village, but I urge everyone to really consider the true facts of this proposal versus the smear campaign that has been going to date and I urge the Town of North Hempstead to approve this proposal.

Great Coverage

I want to congratulate you on your beautiful article. In all the years I've been running the Thanksgiving Day race and all the years I've been reading the Port Washington News, I've never seen such good coverage of this wonderful annual event. You did a great job!

Shares 'Wall and Recognition' Credit

I felt much pride reading my name in the Nov. 6 edition of Port Washington News with regard to my efforts in creating the Wall of Recognition and other commemorative plaques. I was not alone in that effort. I would like to share the credit with all of those included: Amy Berger, Barbara Goldstein, Anne Mai, Carolyn Mandel, Ieva Vanags and North Shore Monuments. Many thanks for making a very special project possible.

St. Rose/TEI Issue Revisited

Regarding Jackie Pierangelo's article "College of St. Rose/TEI Issue" in the 11/27 issue of the Port Washington News:

At the 11/17 school board meeting, the administration reviewed the district's advanced Status Program and its procedures for awarding teachers salary increases based on credits which the teachers earn towards advanced degrees. Ms. Pierangelo's article did not, however, articulate an important point in Mr. Mirzoeff's argument that inappropriate salary increases were being made.

Under the administration's interpretation of the current contract, a teacher could take a series of TEI (Teachers Education Institute) courses with such titles as Self-Esteem I, Self-Esteem II, Self-Esteem for Educators I and Self-Esteem for Educators II. TEI is not accredited, but under an arrangement with the (financially troubled?) College of Saint Rose, a transcript can be obtained showing graduate level credits from an accredited institution. Each of TEI's three credit courses could be completed in two weeks at a motel at a cost of about $100 per credit. Once a teacher has accumulated a specific number of graduate level credits, that teacher is entitled to a salary increase of several thousand dollars per year.

It would be wild speculation to suggest that the TEI is a scam, organized to exploit loopholes in the teachers contract. I'm sure that the vast majority of teachers receiving salary increases under the Advanced Status Program are seriously trying to improve their professional skills. The idea a few teachers are taking courses at a small fraction of the cost in time and money that a serious course would take, and then receiving salary increases based on those courses, is, however, morally repugnant. Such incidents detract from the credibility of the entire system.

Mr. Mirzoeff's point was that the current teachers' contract called for salary increases based on the completion of courses "at an accredited institution." If teachers submit claims for salary increase based on frivolous coursework, then, he argued, the school administration could use a narrower interpretation of the word "at" in granting salary increases. The word "at" indicates a point or place in space. A course which is given at a motel is not given at an accredited institution. There are several good reasons to make the distinction. Such a course fills neither the spirit nor the letter of the contract.

Such a narrow interpretation of the contract would not be necessary, if it were not for the exploitation of the contract on the part of a few teachers. At the meeting, there was a general consensus that teachers should be rewarded for continuing to develop themselves professionally. The question was how to control the quality of the program and thereby reward teachers for real professional development.

The next time the teachers' contract is renegotiated, it should be refined to more clearly eliminate the potential for such abuse. The Teachers Association should be in favor of such refinements because it will allow them to continue justifying teachers' salaries that are at the very top of the range for New York State. They should also agree to the narrower interpretation of the current contract for the same reason.

Progress has already been made on the Advanced Status Program. The previous contract had allowed salary increases for courses such as basket weaving and aerobics, as well as credits for travel experience. If a teacher put together a package of vacation slides and gave them to their school library, that teacher could receive credits towards a salary increase. The idea of teachers receiving salary increases for using part of their two month summer vacations to tour the world was a bit too much for most people to accept, so the current contract eliminated many of those loopholes.

Unfortunately, even these improvements in the current contract are not safe. Some members of the school board and administration did not seem to think it was appropriate to make judgments about the quality of courses. One board member defended the previously allowed courses in basket weaving and aerobics, stating that no one could really judge how they benefited a teacher's professional development. Another board member stated that teachers shouldn't be denied salary increase when they took courses in good faith, believing that they met the requirements of the contract. One of the administration's representatives stated that, if teachers provided the required documentation, the administration had to go ahead and award salary increases because nothing could be done to change an agreement which was made through collective bargaining.

These statements display an inclination to surrender control of the district's payroll to its employees. Such action is not generally considered wise. The school board must be judgmental and draw a line somewhere. The administration must assert some reason when interpreting a contract. Failure to do so will simply squander any resources designated for our children's education. Any activities which teachers engage in for purposes of self-improvement are commendable, but not necessarily reimbursable.

Seniors Return Home

"Seniors Return Home" was the lead in the article in the Port Washington News. What a compliment! The place called home is Saint Stephen's and the seniors who returned were the older members of our community whom we, along with the school system, had sponsored for several years in a senior center.

Two years ago in the midst of government cutbacks and what appeared to be a sensible attempt to economize, the group at Saint Stephen's was consolidated with the private seniors' organization of Manorhaven. The move was successful as a temporary step towards reducing costs. The unfortunate fallout from this decision was that the Port Washington Senior Citizens membership missed us as much as we missed them.

For the past 20 years, with unswerving support from both the Vestry and me, Saint Stephen's has actively pursued a policy of using our beautiful facility as a site for ministry to the community. Our decision in 1980 was a renewed commitment to the ongoing promise made when building the parish hall in 1928. The bronze plaque in the foyer of the parish hall states that the building was constructed for members of the church and this community. That vision stated almost 75 years ago is still an aim of this parish.

This fall, George LeSauvage, who works so hard at overseeing the maintenance of this facility, was contacted and asked if there was a possibility the seniors could return to their former home in our parish hall. After a flurry of phone calls, the arrangements were made. It was a scant two months before the Port Washington Senior Citizens Center was, once more, holding lunches and being guided by director Ilsa Santodonato and her staff.

The last week in November at a pre-Thanksgiving lunch, over 90 members and friends of the Center joined to break bread together, drink a little vino and dance to live and lively music. What a wonderful way to end the old year and begin the new!

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